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Public path into gated community? Neighbors ask for a new route

$82 million dollars purchases Seminole Gulf Rail Line
Posted at 10:25 AM, Mar 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 10:26:44-05

ESTERO, Fla. — This railroad track is in a gated community in Estero called The Vines.

Railroad track cuts through The Vines in Estero

The Village of Estero bought the Seminole Gulf Rail LIne for $82 million. The Bonita Estero Rail Trail (BERT) project intends to turn it into a path for cyclists and pedestrians.

Not everyone's happy about it because it's feet away from a country club, a golf course, and more than 400 homes in The Vines neighborhood.

"It makes me feel disrespected," Diana Ackerman said, as she does not want to see her community change in this way.

Deb Orton is the president of an organization called Friends of BERT. The group provided a statement to FOX 4: "Once completed... the trail and the green-way will provide significant economic, health, safety, and recreational benefits for the residents, visitors, and businesses in Lee County."

She noted 21 nearby home owner associations are on board with turning the tracks into 14.9 miles of space for the general public to walk and bike.

Bruce Ackerman says no one at The Vines were asked for their thoughts.

"The 21 communities that have supposedly endorsed it, none of them are directly impacted," he said.

He's worried about a loss in property value and risk to their safety, something they purchased a home in gated community to avoid. They say the hundreds of thousands of expected users of the new trail will run into traffic here, at a busy entrance to the neighborhood.

Diana Ackerman says all deliveries, first responders, and general traffic comes this way, where this path will be built.

"There's an adjacent neighborhood, San Carlos, where public homes that are un-gated have their back yards up against the railroads, this is so unfair to those folks," Bruce Ackerman said.

The path stretches from Wiggins Pass road in Naples to Alico Road in Fort Myers.

"Let's get around the table, put the right people around the table and make sure that this path is correct for all of us," Diana Ackerman said.